- Rain Damage happens every winter; the most at-risk properties are the older ones with a poor or spotty history of maintenance.
- Electrical damage is a major risk when it comes to rainstorms
- Prevention is better than repair, spending a little bit of time, effort and money now is a lot better than dealing with the aftermath of rain damage.
The winter season is upon us once more, and with it comes something we are not used to in the UAE, copious amounts of rain that falls in very short periods of time. Anyone who has driven through Al Quoz or Mussafah after a rainstorm understands how quickly these bursts of rain turn mundane roads into chaotic maelstroms that you would usually expect to see at Wild Wadi.
Closer to home, it is easy to forget that rain can also cause damage in a variety of ways. The main risks that we should all be aware of are:
- Electrical/appliance damage
- Structural damage
- Internal damage from flooding.
The first step in the process of minimizing these risks lies in understanding your home’s vulnerabilities. For example, if you live in a villa that is located in a low-lying area or an area with poor storm drainage, you may be more at risk of your home flooding.
Rainfall in the UAE
The risk of damage to your home increases during a rainstorm, there are however many steps you can take to minimize the risks. The chart below is taken from the World Bank’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal, reflecting the UAE’s average rainfall in each month from the year 1991 to 2015.
As you can see, on average, there is a considerable increase in rainfall in February and March, with December and January being months that often see an elevated amount of average rainfall.
Armed with this information, it would, therefore, be prudent to arrange an annual inspection around October to determine the structural risks to your home.
While rainfall is not a common occurrence in the UAE, damage caused by rains is covered in a majority of home insurance policies in the UAE; another reason why many uninsured residents should take a step towards insuring their home, starting right here with a free home Insurance quote offered by Aqeed.
Take into account, however, that “content in the open” usually is not covered by insurance. Should a storm occur, it could be seen as:
- Putting these items directly at risk
- Not taking proper precautions to reduce the damage
- The items are not within the perimeters of what is defined as a home or building.
A multinational insurance group, RSA, outlines in their policy that “buildings/homes are insured against damage by Storms and Floods (a) Excluding damage to gates, hedges, fences or tennis courts
(b) Excluding loss or damage caused by frost.”
You must also make sure that proper and regular inspection is conducted on the property as insurance home policies typically do not cover damages caused by defective materials, or in case the storm damage is caused due to previous openings created for renovation.
Potential flooding risks at home
High winds and heavy rain can impair your roof’s integrity, creating small cracks or gaps that may allow water in. An external inspection can help to identify these gaps before they cause internal problems. The UAE plays host to a wide variety of styles regarding villa construction, ranging from flat roofs to shingle/tiled roofs. Flat roofs require regular maintenance to ensure they remained water-sealed, while tiled roofs have to be inspected to ensure none of the tiles are loose or missing.
One of the most overlooked areas exists in homes with split unit air conditioners. Pipes that connect compressors placed on the roof to your air conditioner often come through holes in the ceiling, which are often left unsealed. This is an issue in both newly built villas in residential communities as well as old or detached villas in other areas.
Dead Trees and Potential Debris
Falling trees and/or other structures can also cause structural damage to your home. Gardens in the UAE are often landscaped with tall trees, such as date palms or ficus religiosa trees. Unbeknownst to all, trees can often develop health issues that leave large branches or even the whole tree dead and brittle. In the event of a storm or strong winds, they easily topple and can cause damage. Other potential debris can include garden furniture and/or structures like a wooden shed, lightly constructed reception rooms (locally referred to as a majlis), canopies or sun-shades.
Drainage and Plumbing
Although rainfall might not seem like it is a significant consideration when architects and engineers in the UAE are building houses, most of them take into account the fact that in the UAE, when it rains, it pours. Over time, gutters and drainpipes on the outside of your home may clog with leaves, debris or dirt, which can cause water to pool and pressure to build on the roof of your house, as the water collects it would not take too long to permeate any sealing membrane applied. If your home has a basement, then you should understand the plumbing of the basement area of your home, the installation of a drain back-flow valve could be crucial in preventing this area from flooding due to back-flow of water from the drain. A qualified plumber should inspect the connection of the plumbing in basement areas to the municipality sewage network to ascertain the best place to install such a valve.
Electrical Wiring and Appliances
Rain and lightning, as well as potential flooding, can wreak havoc on your home’s electrical appliances and wiring. This official advice, issued by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), highlights the importance of taking measures to protect your electrical system in the rainy season.
The placement of electrical outlets as well as appliances such as fridges and washing machines are also something that should be reviewed.
Your check-up list to take precautions against rain damage
- Review your home’s roof and ceiling to ensure that there is an impermeable waterproof seal.
If you have a tiled roof, ensure that none of the tiles are missing.
Ensure that you check areas where any pipes leading to or from split unit air conditioner compressors via the roof, the holes made for these pipes should be properly sealed.
- Ensure that any gutters or drainpipes on the outside of your house are clear of dead leaves, dirt or debris. There are devices that you can install such as downpipe gutter, balloon pipe guard filter and leaf guards for sewers. These will help you keep such dirt and debris out of the channel and drains all year round.
- Clear or secure any dead trees, branches or outdoor furniture such as sun shades or canopies.
- Conduct a thorough review of your plumbing system to ensure that it is fully prepared for any flooding, consider the installation of a back-flow valve if required in any basement areas.
- Elevate any electrical appliances on the ground floor or basement off the floor. Placing them at least 3 inches off the floor will provide an additional layer of protection in the event of flooding.
- Check external fuse boxes and electrical boxes, ensuring that connectors are sealed and that all electrical connections both internal and external are correctly earthed.
- Seal any spare conduits that you have for electrical wiring; both outdoors and indoors. These conduits will have been provisioned to allow additional wires to be pulled through the same trunking to avoid having to dig up the garden/flooring again to add or fix the wiring.
- Check the seals on electrical cabinets and electrical meter windows, ensure that they are watertight whether they are indoor or outdoor.
- Secure any fuel tanks or canisters containing hazardous chemicals or petroleum products. You can either tie these down, so they do not fall or move them to alternative more elevated locations. In the event of a flood in your home if these were to tip over it would create a significant health hazard as well as being damaging to the environment.
- If your home has a basement and a sump pump, make sure that you test your sump pump every year, the sump pump will either be submersible or pedestal pump motors.